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October 17, 2017

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Lessons Learned

As many of you know, my third book, Business From the Heart, will be released on May 31. As I publicized this book release, one of my friends asked me what lessons I have learned from writing my books. Always looking for new ideas for my blog, I decided to tackle the question here.

First Book - Admit It!, 21 Things You Already Know but Apparently Have Forgotten Regarding Client Service (2005).

Admit It! did not start out to be a book, but was actually a PowerPoint presentation for my office regarding client service. It became a book after my co-workers thought it had value to client service businesses.

Lesson 1 – Keep it simple. When I set out to write Admit It! based on the PowerPoint presentation, I wanted the book to be a simple, but not simplistic, overview of client service for a professional audience. I envisioned the book to be a desktop reference guide to remind the reader of the customer service tips that he knew he should be practicing. The comments that I have received over the years regarding the book have been a testament to that premise. People like the simple organization of the book. Keeping it simple works well to get your points across clearly.

Lesson 2 – Writing is harder than you think. I initially thought that I would just sit down and write Admit It! in two months. Why not? I already had the outline. Three years later (although I took a year off in the middle), I finished the book. I found the writing fairly straight forward, but finding the time to write well, that’s another story. I eventually finished the book when I began treating it like any other project and devoting time to it every day and sticking to the plan. Persistence paid off and, to date, the book has sold remarkably well (over 2,500 copies).

Second Book - A Man in Transition, Reflections on Relationships, Leadership, and Life (2008).

A Man in Transition also did not start out as a book. It is a collection of my journal entries over a two-year introspective period in my life. It was only later that I decided to turn these musings into a book.

Lesson 3 – Manage Expectations. By the time I began writing A Man in Transition, Admit It! had sold approximately 2,000 copies. I thought A Man in Transition was a much better book so I imagined its sales going through the roof. What I failed to realize is that A Man in Transition did not have the mass appeal of Admit It! as it was a personally reflective book. This taught me to balance my expectations with a dose of reality. I have learned to look at things much more objectively than I did prior to writing A Man in Transition. Although it has never reached as large an audience as Admit It!, I am still proud of the book and grateful to those who have purchased it.

Lesson 4 – Don’t take things personally. I was actually taught this during the writing of Admit It!, but began to practice it during A Man in Transition. My wife edited both books for me, as she now does my blog. She does a fantastic job, but at first I took her comments too personally. Writing is a deeply personal experience, but once the work is written, one needs to step away from the ideas in the writing and focus on the technical editing. If your editor does not understand what you are trying to say, no one else will either. Don’t take comments personally, especially when they are offered to help make your work better.

Third Book - Business From the Heart, Lesson on Purpose, Passion, and Commitment (2011).

My latest book is a compilation of the best of my The Heart of Business blog over the last three years, completely reorganized with many sections expanded and rewritten.

Lesson 5 – Don’t fall in love with your first idea. As I was writing Business From the Heart, I used the working title of Business Not As Usual. Through the editing process my editor and marketing consultants suggested that this title was negative and suggested Business as Unusual. I was hesitant at first, but became convinced when I saw the cover design, which I immediately loved. By the time I got the book to the publisher, I had been promoting the book for months, as Business as Unusual and the title had taken on a life of its own. Imagine my surprise when my publisher informed me that there was already a well-selling book with the same title. I was caught completely off guard.

My team jumped in and helped me brainstorm new titles, but I was too attached to the previous title to really consider them. I didn’t care for Business From the Heart at first. It didn’t seem to capture my sentiments for the book, but after insistence from my team of people whom I held in high regard, I accepted the title with the subtitle Lessons on Purpose, Passion, and Commitment. Looking back, although the process was sound, it was my love of the previous title that held us back. Business From the Heart is clearly a better title and best captures the essence of the book.

Lesson 6 – When one door closes, another opens. I was determined to find a publisher for Business From the Heart. I had self-published the previous two books but felt this book was better and would find interest with a publisher. After sending book proposals to several publishing companies with little response, I was introduced to a publisher by my marketing consultant. The publisher sent me a proposal that would have cost me quite a bit of money out-of-pocket in fees and book sales. I was very surprised, and although I have been told this is a normal arrangement, it was too much for me. I decided that self-publishing was again in my future.

Then I met the fine folks at BNi Books through the CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Ron Worth. Ron had agreed to stock the book in the SMPS bookstore. BNi Books offered to publish the book. Indeed as one door slammed shut, another opened.

I’m sure there are other lessons I have learned over the nine years authoring three books, but these lessons had the most impact on me and all of my endeavors.

Until next time…


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